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National Parks - 2010 Trip - Day 8

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Start Location: Burlington, CO
Ending Location: Alamosa, CO
Miles Today: 359
Trip Miles: 2589
States Visited: 7
Provinces Visited: 0
Low Temp: 64.4° F
High Temp: 86.9° F
Min Elevation: 3492'
Max Elevation: 9435'

Route Map:


We debated taking the Interstate today but, after studying the map, the distances were virtually the same either on or off the Interstate and, if we took the Interstates, we would be going through the center of Colorado Springs and Pueblo which would have meant a lot more traffic.  So we stayed on route 385 south as long as we could.  In case you were wondering, route 385 is an officially designated High Plains Highway and we got pictures to prove it.  The day started off with some huge windmill blades on flat beds that were much longer than normal trucks.  We think they must have to plan their route very carefully to avoid sharp corners.

We traveled down 385 as far as Lamar and then turned west.  I mentioned gas mileage the other day.  Well today we had another stiff wind but  today it was quartering from behind us.  Yesterday we got 33.3 and 35.1 mpg going into the wind and we had one tank today that hit 49.7 mpg - hugh difference.  Once again there was very light traffic.  In fact we went the first 95 miles without seeing another vehicle in our lane.  Once we turned west we picked up route 50 that took us to La Junta.  We left La Junta on route 10 at about 4000' and slowly began to climb.  Route 10 was like 385 - 63 miles of no traffic, no towns, and no gas.  By the time we got to Walsenburg, we could start to see the mountains in the distance and were already at about 6000'.  From there we climbed rapidly to almost 9500' and the temperature dropped steadily as the altitude climbed.  After going over the pass, we dropped back to 8000' and soon approached our destination for the day - The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

The park was pretty amazing.  The dune field itself covers 30 square miles and, at 750' high, they are the tallest dunes in North America.  The actual sand fields extend for close to 300 square miles.  While the dunes, which are backed up to the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, are the main feature, the park is composed of rugged peaks, arid deserts, and lush wetlands.  Unfortunately much of the park is only accessible via hiking trails.  The actual road only extends about 3 or 4 miles into the park and takes you to the visitor center, a campground, and the base of the dunes.  It was definitely an interesting stop.

Tomorrow we head for Mesa Verde.